Mornings are about repetition for most people. Yogurt. Cereal. Eggs. Toast. All of these are foods that require little effort to construct and not much more effort to eat, although they’re definitely a satisfying way to start the day. I like to stick to the same – or similar - foods foods for breakfast, too, because it means that I don’t have to think too hard before my coffee is ready. Lately, I’ve been eating homemade granola and, for a little variety, I decided to change up my usual recipe with a fall twist.
The granola I make most often uses applesauce as a binder in place of butter or oil. The granola still bakes up to be satisfyingly crunchy, but there is no added fat beyond that from the (healthy) nuts incorporated into the mix. For this batch, I used some applesauce and some pumpkin puree as binders. The pumpkin has almost the same consistency as applesauce, but adds a different flavor. I further drew attention to the pumpkin by adding a generous amount of my homemade pumpkin pie spice. The mix includes cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg and a bit of cardamom, and I try to always have some on hand.
The granola turned out beautifully. It didn’t have a pumpkin pie flavor persay, but it did have a good dose of fall spice to it that was a nice change of pace for my breakfast. Pecans are the perfect nut to use for this granola, though walnuts and almonds are also good choices. The nuts should be added into the granola towards the end of baking to ensure that they toast up well and you get the best possible flavor; adding the nuts in too early will probably cause them to burn. Granola should be stored in an airtight container to keep it crisp and dried fruit should be added just before serving, not mixed in with the granola.
Pumpkin Spice Granola
3 1/2 cups rolled oats
2 1/2 cups puffed rice cereal
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice mix
pinch ground cardamom
3/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup plain pureed pumpkin
1/4 cup plain applesauce
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
up to 1 1/2 cups chopped nuts
up to 1 cup dried fruit
nut suggestions: almonds, walnuts, pecans, pumpkin seeds
dried fruit suggestions: cranberries, raisins
Preheat the oven to 325F and line a large baking sheet (or two smaller sheets) with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, combine oats, puffed rice cereal. In a medium bowl, whisk together spices, salt, sugar, applesauce (do not use chunky applesauce), pumpkin puree, maple syrup and vanilla. Whisk until very smooth.
Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and stir with a spatula or large spoon until mixture is evenly coated. Spread on prepared baking sheet(s) in an even layer.
Bake for 30 minutes, then turn over the granola carefully using a large wide spatula. Sprinkle the nuts onto the granola, then bake everything for additional 15 minutes, until crisp and golden. Depending on the size of your baking sheet, the center might not be fully dried if your granola layer is thick, so if necessary remove the edges of the cooked granola to a cooling rack and let the rest cook for another 10-15 minutes until done.
Cool on pan or on a fine wire rack.
Break granola up as desired and store in an airtight container. Add dried fruit before serving.
Makes about 8 servings, more depending on add-ins.